Hannah Millinship-Hayes, campaigns manager at The Challenge, talks about Panorama's documentary on divisions in Blackburn's community which aired on Monday night - and calls on people to sign up to our Equal Not Divided campaign.
Did you watch Panorama on Monday night? The BBC documentary revisited Blackburn ten years after the original ‘White Fright’ programme, which highlighted divisions between the town’s Muslim Asian and White communities. “They’ll take over eventually” said one man drinking in the Bee Hive pub. Elsewhere, a British Asian youth-worker summed up both the problem and the solution: “The fear of the unknown can only be broken down once you get to know people”.
The programme has provoked fierce debate - not least from Blackburn’s politicians and communities, who point out that the programme did little to showcase the valuable grassroots work that is going on to address segregation in the town, or to highlight the Social Integration Strategy published by the council last year.
But one thing is certainly clear in our post-Brexit world - many of us are looking for the reasons behind all kinds of social division, and ways we can heal those divides. In last night’s programme, Dame Louise Casey spoke about her 2016 report on opportunity and integration. She’s commented before that she’d like to see what Government plans to do with her recommendations in its imminent Integration Strategy - as she put it on the anniversary of the report’s release, “A year is an awful long time in the lives of people growing up in this country”.
Several people on last night’s show discussed the role of schools in encouraging mixing. Gulistan, a Blackburn resident, had moved his young family to a predominantly White area in order to make sure his children could attend the local (mainly White) comprehensive school. Former policeman Nazir felt strongly that madrasas - Arabic educational institutions - should be regulated more tightly. Professor Ted Cantle also spoke about education and, in particular, schools as a key driver for integration.
Our own research with Professor Cantle’s iCoCo foundation and SchoolsDash showed that faith schools were more segregated both by ethnicity and by wealth than non-faith schools. The experiences we have at school often set our approach to life so, if we want to build a more united country, that must start with the experiences our young people have while there.
At The Challenge, we strongly believe that programmes like the National Citizen Service (NCS) can help with this - it’s the perfect way for young people to mix with others from different backgrounds. And charities such as The Linking Network do lots to bring people from all walks of life together, through its work with schools up and down country.
Our own Equal not Divided campaign shines a light on teachers - and schools - who are leading the way when it comes to social mixing. We know there are hundreds of hidden heroes out there, helping pupils to have these kinds of experiences, and they deserve some thanks. We want to share your stories in the hope that you will inspire others to bring young people from different backgrounds together.
But to do this, we need you to tell us what’s going on where you live or work. We’d love to hear what’s happening - whether that’s running a community football league, joining in charitable events like the Great Get Together, or volunteering at your local Scouts club.
Get in touch to tell us your story or if you’re interested in getting involved in bringing young people together for a stronger, more mixed society.